Vehicle Overview
Suzuki is best known for small cars and sport utility vehicles. But for 2004, the company has added an affordable, modern midsize family sedan. Available in three forms, the new Verona competes against the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry.

Like the automaker’s brand-new compact Forenza, it’s a product of General Motors’ investment in the bankrupt Daewoo organization of South Korea. Production takes place at GM Daewoo Auto and Technology (GMDAT) in South Korea. GM owns a portion of Suzuki.

Both Suzuki models were introduced at the Chicago Auto Show in February 2003. Visitors to Toronto’s auto show, which was held at the same time, got to see the Verona and a different Daewoo-based subcompact model called the Swift+, which will be limited to the Canadian market. Chevrolet will offer another Daewoo-derived product: a subcompact sedan and hatchback dubbed Aveo.

The front-wheel-drive Verona sedan’s Italian name and European look are the result of styling done by Italy’s Italdesign organization. Developed with assistance from Porsche, the Verona’s 2.5-liter inline-six-cylinder engine produces 155 horsepower.

The emergence of Suzuki’s two new models signals a period of notable growth for the automaker, which is expected to unveil additional vehicles during the next few years. Suzuki has a five-year plan during which nine new models will be introduced.

Suzuki claims that the Verona’s sleek exterior styling is reminiscent of high-end European sedans and amounts to a “polished take on the classic sedan.” Wider than the Altima and Camry, the Verona features fog lamps embedded into the lower bumper and Euro-style dual-halogen headlights. The six-window profile is meant to produce maximum visibility, and large taillamps bring up the rear.

Side accents include chrome door handles, and color-keyed side moldings have chrome inserts. The roof rack grooves are designed for easy accessory installation. A power sunroof is installed on the EX sedan.

Measuring 187.8 inches long overall, the Verona rides a 106.3-inch wheelbase. Steel wheels on the S sedan hold 15-inch tires, and the LX and EX models get 16-inch tires on aluminum wheels. Speed-sensing power steering and all-disc brakes are standard. The Verona’s suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front, a multilink setup at the rear and gas-charged shock absorbers.

Suzuki claims that the five-passenger Verona has more front legroom than the Camry and greater rear legroom than the Accord and Altima. Facing a woodgrain-accented interior, the Verona driver gets a six-position seat and a tilt steering wheel with integrated stereo controls. Power windows, locks and mirrors are standard. Padded center armrests go in the front and rear seats, and a two-layer storage compartment is equipped in the backseat. Dual cupholders fit into the center console, and the driver gets a dashboard-mounted change tray. Trunk space totals 13.4 cubic feet.

Standard equipment includes air conditioning, cruise control, remote keyless entry, an anti-theft device and a cassette/CD stereo system with six speakers. Automatic-temperature control is installed in the LX version. The EX sedan gets heated front seats with stitched leather upholstery and an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat. An auto-dimming mirror is also available.

Under the Hood
The all-aluminum, dual-overhead-cam, 2.5-liter inline-six-cylinder engine has four valves per cylinder. Mounted transversely, it develops 155 hp at 5,800 rpm and 177 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. A four-speed-automatic transmission with an adaptive control system and step-gate shifter is standard. The adaptive unit can “learn” the driver’s habits and adapt the shifting pattern to optimize performance. Traction control is an option for the EX.

Antilock brakes are standard on LX and EX sedans. All seating positions have three-point seat belts and headrests. Side-impact airbags are not available.

Driving Impressions
Even though it has imperfections, the well-equipped Verona midsize sedan delivers plenty of automobile for the money. You get a pleasant and cushy ride on smooth surfaces, and the Verona deals with harsher pavement relatively well, too. Its steering isn’t the most precise of the midsize-sedan lot, but it’s adequate. The Verona is nicely stable on the highway, but it isn’t entirely confident through fast, tight curves.

Acceleration from a standing start is satisfactory, but only after a moment of initial sluggishness. The six-cylinder engine is quiet most of the time but gets noisy while the transmission is downshifting. Those downshifts tend to be somewhat uncertain and hesitant, but they’re less noticeable on level roads.

The Verona’s seat bottoms are short. Headroom and elbowroom in the front seat are ample, though the front passenger lacks a bit of leg space. Rear headroom and legroom rank as very good, and loading cargo is easy enough in the square-shaped trunk. The gauges are set deeply into the dashboard but are easy to read, and ample glass area allows for good visibility.